Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Final Reflection on a Secular Yom Kippur

9/30/2009—Monday was my first experience at Jewish services as a non-Jew secularist. I went anyway, and fasted, because Yom Kippur has always been a crucial event to me, a day of genuine spiritual experiences. I was not sure what would happen.

I was warmly welcomed at the synagogue to which I had belonged for many years. These have been friends and witnesses in my life. My gradual estrangement from Judaism was assumed, and regretted, from what I could tell. But, still, I felt at home with the community.

I even felt the pull of the familiar at Kol Nidre. What a beautiful service. And the next morning, before going to services, how fresh and alive everything seemed.

Nevertheless, I now see there is no such thing as a secular Yom Kippur. Without the commitment to the myth as a member of the community, the renewal that the High Holy Days promise is not possible. And the concepts of repentance and forgiveness now must be reformulated. I don’t yet see how that is to be done.

One thing is certain. Something in secularism must allow for radical transformation. At the moment, transformation itself is rejected as a religious category. The day to day is revered, as if to yearn for something more is to betray secularism.

I am left asking, what is the point of secular life?


  1. "The day to day is revered, as if to yearn for something more is to betray secularism."

    The only one saying that is you.

  2. While I find your sense of loss of community to be both profound and moving, I cannot help but wonder if it is complete now or if you are facing the regret of it becoming complete? I attend church irregularly and participate at varying levels, but not out of a need for community.
    You ask how a secularist can sense redemption and renewal without a god-figure to measure against. I think that we can agree on an ideal way of being and live toward it. Like the concept of the perfect god, it is unlikely that we will ever achieve that perfection, but it is the journey and how we travel that gives my life value.